Addiction Helpline and Resource Center

How Does HIPAA Protect My Personal Health Information?

Personal privacy regarding health information is one of the most valuable rights for an individual who uses any type of healthcare program or treatment. It is understandable that any patient may wish to obtain treatment without the fear of disclosing all the details of his condition to other people.

An individual’s privacy in counseling is vital since the information is very personal. Also, a person might want to keep certain issues such as addiction and a mental health disorders as private as possible.

In this regard, the HIPAA law has made it a priority to keep privacy first and foremost for every patient.

HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and was enacted in 1996 to regulate health insurance coverage and other aspects of health insurance such as administrative processes.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, the HIPAA law is divided mainly in two principal sections: the transport and sharing of medical information among treatment providers and “administrative simplification,” which means that only select individuals even handle private information within each doctor or treatment facility.

Can Police or Judges See My Information?

The HIPAA privacy rule makes sure that the personal information of an individual is maintained and transmitted securely, and states that this information can only be disclosed after the request of law enforcement officials or as an administrative request required by law. For example:

  • Warrants
  • Subpoenas
  • Court order
  • Locating a suspect
  • Finding a missing person

Some updates have been made to the HIPAA privacy rule, and the US Department of Health & Human Services has made updated resources available where an individual can read in detail everything related to the HIPAA law in this concern.

What Happens if HIPAA Is violated?

Criminal and civil penalties have been established for cases where the HIPAA law is violated. And according to information found on the American Medical Association website, violating the regulations of the administrative simplification section or violating the privacy rule can result in a fine of up to fifty-thousand dollars and even one year of prison.

You can file a complaint if you feel that your personal health information has been disclosed as a violation of the HIPAA privacy rule. Anyone can file a complaint to the Department of Health and Human Services if they know of a covered entity or associate who has violated one of the HIPAA rules.

Covered entities are:

  • Health plans
  • Health care clearinghouse
  • Health care providers

To file a complaint, an individual may use the electronic portal of the OCR (Office for Civil Rights) or send the physical copy of the complaint. More information on filing a complaint and ways to submit it can be found in the HHS website.

The OCR is the organization in charge of investigating the complaints until the issue has been solved. This agency must determine if the violation is true and to what extent. If a violation is found, then the agency establishes the course to take to amend the wrong. A covered entity under scrutiny needs to prove that harm has not occurred in order to respond to the claim.

HIPAA in Addiction Counseling and Recovery

Privacy in counseling is a common concern among people suffering from addiction who are now seeking a recovery plan.

The HIPAA law protects your personal health information as long as you are receiving treatment or counseling through a provider of medical services or another provider of health services that is paid or bills for healthcare. In this case, the privacy rule protects your information and privacy regardless of the treatment or counseling.

For example, Medicare and Medicaid services are in the category of covered entities. Therefore, their health plans need to comply with the standards and rules of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and are subject to penalties and fines for noncompliance.

Finding Addiction Recovery in the Right Setting

The US Department of Health & Human Services has developed this act in order to make insurance coverage and healthcare privacy a right for all Americans. People seeking an addiction recovery program or some sort of counseling through their healthcare provider should feel free to inquire about their privacy rights and other aspects of the HIPAA law.

However, obtaining treatment for addiction should not depend on finding the privacy you want. It is always the patient’s choice to share (or not share) his or her information. In most cases, patients choose to involve close family and friends in the recovery process to make it as effective as possible. The main goal should always be finding the right form of treatment promptly and sticking to the program until ongoing recovery has been successfully achieved.

High-profile patients in need of recovery may also need additional security. There are treatment programs that can help offer this seclusion for high-ranking professionals, athletes or celebrities. It is important to always ask about these options as needed.

Our toll-free helpline is available 24 hours a day to answer your questions regarding treatment options. Our experienced professionals will help you develop a plan for recovery that includes intervention services, family counseling, Dual Diagnosis rehab centers, medically supervised detox programs, transport to and from rehab, and much more. The path to recovery might be just one phone call away.

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